Saturday, April 2, 2011

Milan Coast To Derby Victory

PatoThe build-up to the match was dominated with talk about the absence of a certain striker, but it was the presence another that proved the difference in Milan's most important match of the season.

Weakened, due to the absence of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich, it was Milan who started the brighter of the two sides, and on just forty-five seconds, they found the breakthrough.

Having been played in on goal, Robinho's shot was saved by the diving Cesar, who could only parry the ball into the path of the onrushing Alexandre Pato, who made no mistake with a finish from twelve yards. Milan had the lead, and clearly also had Inter rattled, as Leonardo's men struggled to regain their composure after that early concession.

Milan were controlling center midfield, with Dutchman Wesley Sneijder being marshaled well by the outstanding Mark Van Bommel.

On thirty minutes the aforementioned Van Bommel was in the thick of the action has his deflected shot cannoned off the Julio Cesar's bar and into the hands of the grateful Brazilian. Inter were frankly lucky not to be 2-0 down, and alarm bells must have been ringing in the Nerazzuri camp.

The half ended amidst a whirl of controversy as things began to heat up on the pitch, with several player clashing off the ball. However, despite the aggression shown in the latter stages of the first half, watchers on would have to wait through the fifteen minute half time interval before they saw a first red card of the match.

Having been played through by a brilliant Kevin Prince Boateng pass, Pato accelerated past Christian Chivu, before the Romanian defender cynically brought him down just outside the box. Chivu was promptly sent off for the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity, but the resulting free kick from Thiago Silva was saved by Julio Cesar.

Down a goal and down to ten men, things were looking bleak for Leonardo's Inter Milan side, and on sixty minutes their situation was to become even worse.

After a terrific series of passes around the edge of the Inter Milan penalty area, the ball fell to Massimo Abate just inside the box who, seeing images of himself on tomorrow's back pages, went for goal with a scuffed volley. Hopeless as a shot, Abate's effort turned into the perfect cross for Brazilian Pato, who was tasked with the simplest job of heading the bouncing ball into an empty net.

Milan were 2-0 up, and as the clock ticked on Inter began to pour more and more men forward, and were lucky not to be punished on the counter, only Robinho profligacy stopped the score from becoming ridiculous.

With just a few minutes of normal time remaining it appeared that the day's scoring was over, only for substitute Antonio Cassano to be upended in the box by a Milan defender. Desperate for a goal, Cassano dusted himself off and passed the ball into the center of the net, to make the score 3-0 to Milan. Cassano celebrated in style, ripping his shirt off before being mobbed by a group of Milan players. However, unfortunately for Cassano, his celebration was to prove costly as, minutes after receiving a yellow card for the removal of his shirt, the Italian was given his marching orders following a needless trip on Ivan Cordoba.

Cassano's dismissal may well come back to haunt Milan next weekend, but for now the Rossonerri will put it out of their minds, and simply bask in the glow of a second derby success of the season. AC Milan now sit five points above neighbors Inter, a gap which the Nerrazzuri will find difficult to make up.

Obviously, Leonardo will be disappointed by his side's toothless display, but the former Milan man will take solace in the fact that his side remains competitive in both the Champions League and the Italian Cup.

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